A few weeks back I decided to dip back into the world of Twitter, largely by being prompted to look at the Tweetdeck tool. Tweetdeck is indeed fine and is a boon in managing the flood of tweets. It is also has a rather funky black presentation a refreshing change from the sometime lurid colours favoured elsewhere.


Disturbingly I was quickly sucked back into this world of so-called information; signed up to follow a few more people; started short term groups to monitor events and so on. It didn’t take me long to climb on my hobby horse of indignation – more than half the tweets are still people massaging their own egos: “Just boarding a flight to Obscurity –city”, “ Oh I have so much work to do, what will become of me?”, “ Having lunch with the Aga Khan”, blahdiblah. Rightly the Bristolian Buddha of things technological pointed out that I just have to stop following that sort of idiot Tweeter … ah an elegant solution. But rather grumpily (me, grumpy? Surely not!) I can’t help reflecting on how people who are oh so busy still get time to issue three, four or more Tweets on an hourly basis – seems their view on the pressure of work is not the same as mine.


There are however several Tweeters who do put this strange beast to good use pointing to new reports, podcasts and generally bringing your attention to things worth considering. I must also admit to enjoying the occasional dip into Luvvie Corner where the likes of Stephen Fry et al throw gobbets of celebrity lifestyle to the mere mortals.


But the real issue coming out of this and related tools and applications, is my inability to manage this ever-increasing noise. I have almost abandoned any hope of managing email – the constant flow into the inbox makes me feel like King Canute (or is that Knut now?) in front of the rising sea. Leaving Tweetdeck open triggers a pavlovian response to check each of the insistent birdie noises that herald the arrival of more vital communication. I seem to have fallen back on IM messages to generate in me the sort of rapid response that email used to do – the gentle insistence of a flashing tab indicating that a real person is actually talking directly to me.


Having argued for months with friends (yes I have a few) and neighbours of the importance and exciting nature of these new technological tools, it is with some regret and disappointment that I am starting to feel nostalgic for the days when the Telex machine was the height of sophistication and distractions from the real work at hand were just the more human and personal ones. Sigh.


Online Educa 08 – Open Educational Resources – Rachel Bruce

Rachel Bruce, Programme Director – Information Environment, JISCSharing Nationally: Is It Any of Your Business?Fior JISC the benefits of Open Educational Resources are:

  • Improving education
  • Giving institutions access to larger range of resources
  • Supporting students in their learning
  • Saving tutor time, accessing resources they cannot create

Sustainability issues revolve around two aspects:

  • Money – the funding of production, and sustaining the underpinning infrastructure
  • People – building capacity in the sector

We now have a technical means of rapid distribution and there is an increasing demand for more, free content. This brings about the advent of initiatives like SCA to build a framework for managing resources. The Ithaka led study highlighted a range of issues to bear in mind for sustainability – planning for growth, creating value with user impact, scaling through partnerships, being dynamic and constantly changing, being innovative and agile – there is no one model that suits all. Models like MIT open courseware raise the issue of long term funding from institutions and what happens if and when their priorities change?The issues are not just around the sustainability of production but also of sustainability of sharing the resources. Rachel highlighted the new JISC OER initiatives with the aims of increasing the availability of OER, increasing student satisfaction etc.JORUM began as a keepsafe for publicly funded resources and it will now be repurposed as a national service based on an open access model and be a showcase for UK commitment to OER. It will also provide tools, support and other mechanisms to encourage use of OER.OER is only sustainable if it is part of the learning and teaching process and workflow and to do this we need to overcome issues of recognition, IPR, and quality. But the infrastructure overhead will reduce as technology moves forward and people are doing it anyway, the culture is changing, and  people are starting to get recognition via their digital identity on the web

Online Educa 08 – Open Educational Resources – Richard Baraniuk

Dr Richard Baraniuk, Rice University, USASustainable Open Education Resources – The Connexions Model Baraniuk outlined his basic concepts – that OER is about dealing with text on a page by page basis not as a book, that these pages are accessed through an interconnected repository, it is all based on open source, it is available free and fast. He also emphasised Creative Commons where authors retain copyright and license it via open access licence in order to share, copy and transmit the content, and then remix and adopt the work as long as there is an attribution.The idea behind Connexions is to invite participation through inclusive communities, grassroots networks for students to build personalised textbooks by mashups of other content. It i a repository of open access material –  400+ textbooks, 7000+ lego modules from students, teachers, professionals etc worldwide OER sustainability.For Baraniuk the questions around OER are:

  • its not just a question of whether OERs are sustainable but whether the current system is sustainable – the status quo is too expensive and too burdensome e.g. in California community colleges kids now drop out not because of tution fees but because of textbook costs
  • Need to consider the parallels of music and software industries which have opened up
  • Long tail publishing – there are very few high volume sales of textbooks, most have low sales and high specialisms and sothere is  little revenue. Most content is uneconomic and most content provides few or low royalties
  • How can OER be compatible with for-profit publishing? By using a Creative Commons Attribution licence which adds value to OERs and encourages global community engagement e.g. look at on demand print for books such as Espresso Book Machine, also Qoop for economic print of expensive books, or Flatworld who sell books cheap but make money on additional tutorials and support
  • Quality control of OER’s – use others such as professional bodies to oversee and control specific areas of content – a Lens – and can charge people to access content under this lens


Online Educa 08 – Roger Larsen

Roger Larsen, Fronter, Norway
Learning Together

Frankly an unwelcome and unnecessary advert for far too long at the start of his presentation, this seems quite an insult to the previous speakers who were trying to present new and/or interesting issues. I appreciate that the conference needs sponsors but they should not be mixed with more substantial presentations. I broke my golden rule of not walking out in the middle of a session but really the organisers of Online Educa need to think hard about this sort of this issue. Surely Michael Wesch should have been the last speaker of this session given his profile, ability and interest. Keep the corporate puff of the likes of Fronter and his patronising explanations of MLE’s  for somewhere else, this does the conference no favours at all

Online Educa 08- Norbert Bolz

Prof Norbert Bolz, Berlin University of Technology, Germany
From Knowledge Management to Identity Management

Bolz outlined five key concepts:

  • Serious Play

It is becoming harder to distinguish between tools and toys and younger people are best able to exploit this. Bolz feels that this deals with the issue of ‘paradise of work’ or how it is hard to distinguish between work and play….

  • Self design

The ‘Brand yourself’ idea is about creating an awareness of self branding and it helps the understanding of social networking areas which are about profile design and promotion eg YouTube. It may no longer be about broadcasting or narrowcasting but egocasting. This is about pubic displays of self design and younger people are now concerned with creating not a true self but an interesting self

  • Identity Management

With advent of Googling to discover peoples identity the issue is not just about the technical aspects of identity management but the wider matter of how people manage how they are seen and perceived

  • Attention Management

We now work I an age of reputation and recommendation and links to recommendation. The fact that everyone can communicate with everyone else there means that there is competition to get attention.

  • Linking Value

To do with the logic of networks

Online Educa 08- Michael Wesch

Dr Michael Wesch, Asst Prof  of Cultural Anthropology, Kansas State University, USA

The Crisis of Significance and the Future of Education

Clearly the fact that the hall was packed with people sitting on the floor means that many were here to hear Michael Wesch – an outstanding speaker – engaging, interesting and relevant. Ok maybe what he was saying wasn’t new if you have followed any of his work but few can hold a candle to his style and substance.

In brief here is the substance of his presentation – The approach to information will need to change as we move towards ubiquitous computing and we need to move students to being knowledge-able rather than knowledgeable.

Wesch described the process of preparing his video ‘The Machine is Using Us’ and how he tracked the way in which it rose through the ranks to become top of the YouTube ‘chart’ on the day of the US Superbowl. Before Superbowl started he was thrilled with 254 views but on early Saturday morning he had over 1000. He noticed how the video had been Dug (Dig It) and so was being circulated and tagged. Once something can be tagged  it can be RSS fed around and appear on anyone’s front page. With 133m blogs in existence, blogosphere circulation has a  high impact. With Technorati etc the video become ranked and on Saturday morning was in top 5 and by later that day had hit the top slot. Even after the million dollar Superbowl adverts came into play, his video stayed at the top – a user generated video with community push beating the super-produced commercials. The mediascape is  permanently changing and at the centre of new mediascape is the individual.

Wesch started his interest in media through his anthropology work in Papua New Guinea, one of the worlds last unconnected places. The cultural gap was so large that there was no way that he could explain who he was, what he did etc and he realised that his personal identity based on the information he presented through a range of media. In New Guinea before the census that started to decide how to fund building villages, the individual referred to themselves as ‘brother’, ‘father’ etc everyone knew each other and their role in the community. Following the census thay had immediately to chose names, develop identities for themselves and their communities in order to get benefits out of census-lead funding. So his biew was that media mediates relationships and that media then shapes identities and lives – as Marshall McLuhan said “We shape our tools and then our tools shape us”

In his university class he asked how many people know what was the No 1 on the Billboard 100 (decided by radio play) – no-one knew the answer suggesting that this sort of question is no longer a mass media issue, the students get their information and knowledge though other non mass media outlets like iTunes, Youtube etc. He proceeded to ask his student loads more questions and can the results be seen on the now classic video. His conclusion here was that teaching hasn’t changed but the process of learning has – they like learning but they don’t like school.Wesch believes that the old premises for education are now fatally undermined:

  • Learning is about acquiring info
  • Information is scarce and hard to find
  • Need to trust authority
  • Authorised information is beyond discussion
  • Obey the authority
  • Follow along

When students are put in this sort of environment they respond by asking questions how many points does this piece of work gain, how long do I need to spend etc – and consequently are defining limits to their learningThe solution for Wesch is ‘in the air’ with all  the web 2.0 types technologies available. Many of these negate the earlier statements  and especially  that learning is about acquiring information – it is now about discussing, critiquing information, making connections and creating a significance.

The question should now always be “how do we create students who can create meaningful connections” and for Wesch  the questions is also the solution and that  to stop asking this question is the real problem.

Online Educa 08 – Joseph Pierre Ndiay

Joseph Pierre Ndiaye, Permanent Sec to Minister of Education in Senegal – host of Online Africa 20009Presentation in French with subtitlesSenegal faces a range of problems but education is seen as a vital motor for economic development. Senegal is now devoting 40 % of resources (?) towards education. They feel that they need to consider ever changing techniques to assist education especially in the more remote areas. This is the reason why they are adopting e-learning approaches so widely. The government is committed to turning itself into an e-government and empowering its citizens with ICT. M Ndiaye outlined the policy approaches to encourage ICT in education and also highlighted trans national approaches in Africa. Not surprisingly Microsoft is now a key state partner in this process

Online Educa 2008 – Day 1

Educa 2008 has attracted 2064 delegates from 92 countries with the Dutch delegation of 237 and the UK delegation 247 being the largest groups after the Germans.

This is JISC’s fifth (?) time at Educa and this time without partnering SURF who were unable to attend. We were however next to the Dutch Open University to provide some continuity which worked well. The joint NL OU/JISC drinks reception went well as usual, lots of people, some we knew, some we didn’t and the inevitable few freeloaders grabbing drinks and scuttling off to their own stands (step forward txttools.co.uk amongst others)

This year we tried out some multimedia kiosks where people could browse through podcasts, animations and videos as they wanted – and this proved a useful and popular area (especially Web2rights), something for wider use it seems to me. Thanks go to the Peeblemeister for fixing this.

Charles Hutchings developed an online survey about current and future issues that people could complete with handheld touchscreen tablets, the results of which then get aggregated up. Even without the promise of a 8gb iPod people were genuinely enthusiastic about doing the survey, perhaps either too shy to say No (maybe not) or intrigued by the approach.

On a personal level however I found some unwelcome additions to my ‘unpleasant persons’ list – there seemed to be quite a few this year. I won’t mention names but a dispiriting number come from JISC funded work – a nasty combination of wacky arrogance and openly hostile views about JISC from whom they have been pleased to take the cash. Presumably under the bogus notion of ‘academic rigour’ some of our ‘friends’ feel no need to reference JISC on their work, are happy to litter the stand with themselves and their baggage and all the time talking in sneering tones about  JISC and its work. If they view JISC so poorly then please have some integrity and honour, don’t bid for and accept funding, let someone else have the opportunity. Herrumph.